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MIT's 'intelligent co-pilot' helps you avoid obstacles while driving

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Researchers at MIT are developing a system that doesn't drive for you, but intervenes when you're about to hit an obstacle.

MIT co-pilot car
MIT co-pilot car

While some researchers are trying to create cars that can drive themselves, a team at MIT is attempting something a little different — an "intelligent co-pilot" that helps prevent you from crashing. The system uses a number of sensors, including a camera and laser rangefinder, which are able to detect any hazards near your vehicle. It's then able to determine if you're heading towards danger, and if so, it takes over and adjusts course.

"The real innovation is enabling the car to share [control] with you," says Sterling Anderson, from MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering. The co-pilot has been in testing since last September, with more than 1,200 test drives completed by around 30 different drivers. According to the team, there have only been a "few" collisions, and these typically had to do with glitches in the on-board camera.

It's possible that such a system could be integrated into cars one day, but the team is actually looking at "simpler, cheaper" ways to make the technology available. "You could stick your cellphone on the dashboard, and it would use the camera, accelerometers, and gyro to provide the feedback needed by the system," says Anderson.